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News Editorial Other Voices Interview

CUNY Sheds Reputation
as "Tutor U"

The nation's largest urban university raises standards, and grapples with remediation

  In This Issue
 

(Photo by Janet Durrans, Black Star, for CrossTalk)

Although male enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities is declining, a coed at Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut, managed to locate a member of this disappearing breed.
( more)

News
CUNY Sheds Reputation
as "Tutor U"

The nation's largest urban university raises standards, and grapples with remediation

Scholarship Sweepstakes
National Merit program offers millions in scholarship dollars without regard to financial need

Where the Boys Aren't
For young males, the drift away from academic achievement is a trend

"Culture of Quality"
Northwest Missouri State University's corporate-style goal-setting and number-crunching

News From The Center
New Board Members

Virginia B. Smith Award

Letters To The Editor
Guaranteed student loan program defended

The wrong president

Other Voices
Strategic Missive
Is the criticism of Lawrence Summers just smart marketing?

Toward Continuous Improvement
Rebuilding the compact between higher education, the public and our elected officials

By Jon Marcus
New York

The gaping canyon where the World Trade Center once stood is now Ground Zero of a soaring renewal. Commuters bustle to their offices in buildings that have been painstakingly repaired. Construction workers rush to finish new glass towers rising from the rubble.

One of the last grim scars of the terrorist attacks will also soon be taken down and replaced: Fiterman Hall, a 1950s office building that had been renovated into classrooms and offices for the Borough of Manhattan Community College, and was a month away from opening when 7 World Trade Center collapsed on the building, damaging it beyond repair.

Still a hulking ruin, covered in plywood and chain-link, on a largely empty side street, Fiterman Hall is at last about to be rebuilt into classrooms. And not a moment too soon. Around the corner, the community college-part of the City University of New York system-is bursting with 18,600 students, a 24 percent jump in just five years.

 
Fiterman Hall, at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, was destroyed in the World Trade Center attacks but soon will be rebuilt.
(Photo by Lisa Quiñones, Black Star, for CrossTalk)
 
The increase in enrollment is part of the renewal of CUNY itself, a turnaround that follows the introduction of stricter admissions requirements and a virtual end to remediation programs critics complained were fostering an atmosphere of mediocrity in the four-year colleges of the nation's largest urban university. It largely defies predictions that this dramatic change would doom the school's tradition of helping immigrants achieve a higher education. And it has come with breakneck speed unheard of in higher education, bringing quantifiable improvements and a palpable spike in enthusiasm in less time than it seems to take most universities to set up a planning committee. (continue)

 

Scholarship Sweepstakes
National Merit program offers millions in scholarship dollars without regard to financial need

 
   
By Pamela Burdman
Norman, Oklahoma

Andrew Miller grew up in southern California, attended a private high school, and earned the high grades that virtually ensured him a spot at nearby UCLA or USC. But a two-hour test in his junior year altered his path dramatically. Along with more than a million fellow high school juniors, Miller sat for the PSAT. Though typically described as practice for its better-known older sibling (the SAT), the test's lesser billing obscures its role as the lever over hundreds of millions of scholarship dollars in a national sweepstakes to attract the coveted top performers.

Miller's score of 215 (out of a possible 240) qualified him for consideration as a National Merit Finalist in 2003, putting him in the sights of schools around the country. He eventually picked the University of Oklahoma, which offers out-of-state National Merit Finalists the prize in financial aid: a "free ride" currently worth about $65,000 over four years.

OU is one of the nation's top contenders in the competition among schools to enrich their portfolios of National Merit Scholars. The current freshman class includes 170-more per capita than any U.S. public university. In addition to the more than $6.3 million that National CrossTalk estimates the university spends on scholarships and tuition waivers, OU courts this cadre of students with perks like special dorms and early class registration. "We make a big push to try to attract those students," said Associate Vice President Matt Hamilton.

It is a push that catches students' and parents' attention. Miller was entertaining offers from UCLA and USC when he learned about Oklahoma's arrangement. UCLA offers just $1,000 a year for National Merit Finalists without financial need, and even USC's $13,000-a-year offer wouldn't have covered his costs. "I wouldn't have been out here if it hadn't been for the scholarship," said Miller. "I love it here. You feel really special."

 
National Merit Scholar Andrew Miller received a four-year "full ride" scholarship to the University of Oklahoma.
(Photo by Lisa Hoke, Black Star, for CrossTalk)
 
Indeed, for most involved in the National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP), there is little to dislike. Students get seductive stipends. Schools get the status conferred by the trademark. Corporations get tax deductions and scholarship perks for employees. And the College Board, which co-sponsors the PSAT with the Illinois-based National Merit Scholar Corporation (NMSC), gets the prestige that ensures an expanding market.

Last fall, more than 1.4 million high school juniors entered the competition by sitting for the test officially known as the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). For the first time, an even greater number of non-juniors took the exam, said Beth Robinson, executive director of the College Board's PSAT Program. Altogether, 2.94 million students took the test, yielding an estimated $32 million in revenue for the College Board. (continue)

 
     

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